Here I am presenting an analysis and critique of article ‘Children of Incarcerated Parents’ by Diane and Edward Reed, in Journal of Social Justice. The authors have taken an extensive stock of prison situation in US across various states, and then analyzed the situation of children/students whose parents are incarcerated. The authors cite statement of Denise Johnston of Center for Children of Incarcerated Parents, who provides the broad estimates that there are approximately five million children and teenagers less than age of 18 with one or both parents in jails.
Thereupon the authors provide the emotional, psychological and social effect of this event on the growing life of children. They reveal how absence of parents affects the upbringing and educational pattern of children. A brief insight is also given on the role of foster parents social care groups in the situation (Reed and Reed, 1997). The article further explores the eventualities when legal authorities forcibly terminate the parental rights of parents over their children, and the legal, social and emotional implication of this step.
Then the article delves extensively on the short term and long term effect of having missing parents: particularly how it leads to emotional development of children, how they have to cope up with this reality in their day to day, particularly school life. Schools are the foremost social groups of young people, and the authors have tried to examine the how children with their parents in jail cope up with their studies as well with their class mates while carrying an apparent stigma (Reed and Reed, 1997).
The article then takes stock of the long term development role that this absence plays, especially if children are forced to stay away from their parents for a long time. Critique Diane and Edward Reed have taken a comprehensive assessment of the situation of students with their both parents incarcerated. In providing this assessment, they have presented a range of findings from various researchers, for the purpose of their analysis.
In assessing the special condition of children with incarcerated parents, the authors note that their responsibility rests with juvenile courts who have to find relatives or foster parents for care and upbringing of these children (Reed and Reed, 1997). These children further undergo frequent foster parents transference, which creates difficulties for their parents to keep in contact with them-failing to do often results in loss of parental rights, adding to further woes of these children.
According to the authors, the effect of parents’ incarceration and criminal records is extremely devastating for children and can distracts them from their educational goals and desire to excel. In a study conducted by Johnston across various schools, it was found that among students with most severe behavioral and disciplinary problem 80 to 90 percent have one or both parents incarcerated. The range of behavioral, psychological, and educational problems faced by these students are huge.
In describing their social and emotional state, the article helps us to know that these children may suffer from a range of syndromes which include sadness, loneliness, depression, trauma, diminished academic and school performance, truancy, disciplinary problem, alcohol and drug abuse, and aggressive behavior (Reed and Reed, 1997) Further exploring the issue, the article looks at the economic and social aspect of the problem.
Without the parents to support their financial needs, some children are may take a route towards adopting unlawful means to meet their expenditures, which often results in disastrous consequences. The article touches on the issue of type of care provided to these students, and critically asses the form of care provided by relatives or foster parents to establish the point that this type of care ignores the emotional requirements of these children, leading to fear, vulnerability and depression, which immediately reflect in their academic performance (Reed and Reed, 1997).
The article provides a deep insight into the fears, thoughts, and emotional state of children with incarcerated process while comparing them with children who are orphan, due to demise of their parents. The article makes an valid assessment here that although the apparent facts are same, which is marked by absence of parents and care of relatives or foster parents, orphan children receive a social response which is markedly separate from one received by children of incarcerated parents.
For orphaned children, the levels of sympathy and empathy are generally higher, and there is a subconscious effort by their society towards successful forging of a symbiotic and benevolent relation with them (Reed and Reed, 1997). However, for children with jailed parents, there is huge degree of mistrust and apprehension, which reflects in society’s response towards them. Even the schools are not untouched from holding prejudice against them, and with the general tendency to deliberately or inadvertently link them with their parent, it compounds their stress level, sometimes leading to violent reaction and severe consequences.
While studying the role of peers in constructing the social atmosphere of children with jailed parents, the author discuss the mutual level of mistrust, fear, disassociation, and disconnect that creates a perceivable divide within the class rooms (Reed and Reed, 1997). Most children are warned by their parents against interacting with children of jailed parents, the others simply avoid them or do not prefer to share their common space. This is one of the major reason which leads to behavioral decline and aggressive outburst in the latter, earning them criticism or punishment from teachers (Reed and Reed, 1997).
However, even though the article has provided commendable insight into the full gamut of the psychological problems and troubles faced by these children, it does not cite any research which demonstrate any corrective set of measures which can create an atmosphere of their acceptance and social assimilation (Reed and Reed, 1997). The article also does not highlight the role of state social welfare agencies and children right groups working towards creating an equitable climate for these children, by setting up special schools, facility of psychological education, consultation and advise to help them come out of the trauma.
Learning: We get very effective insight into the factors that impedes and inhibits students of jailed parents from focusing on their studies, assimilating with other students, and adopting aggressive or unlawful approach in their life. Although, not suggested explicitly in the article, the message that clearly comes out and which would form the basis for further discussion is the role of the external medium, which is school and peers in this case, in forming an conducive environment for these children to grow and learn normally .
Session Plan: The session plan covers following areas 1. Statistics on the children with incarcerated parents. 2. Impact i. Alienation-forced living with relatives and foster parents 1. Effects: Living with relatives and/or foster parents induces a sense of fear, vulnerability and apprehension in children, where they shut themselves up emotionally. It negatively impacts their education, because they don’t find serious motivation or pressure to perform well in schools (Jacob, Masson and Harvill, 1993)
2. Remedy: Engage these students constructively during school hours by cultivating a hobby or diverting their attention on special skill and interest areas ii. Trauma- Separation of parents is traumatic for students 1. Effect: It may lead to severe depression, psychological problems, and shutting down. Studies are badly affected as youngsters find themselves unable to cope with pressure of school and social life without presence of their parents (Jacob, Masson and Harvill, 1993). 2.
Remedy: Creation of a support structure within the school with facility of counseling and psychological advice. iii. Dependency: Absence of parents leads to severe financial crisis for young students who may not be left with any countable option for even most essential requirements. 1. Effect: This may result in truancy, or worse, it may propel students to take illegal ways-drugs, theft or even robbery, which would further exacerbate their state. 2. Remedy: School should impart vocational courses to students.
The social welfare institutes should work along with the local government to create an stipend fund for the students . iv. Aggressive behavior: Disconnect and disassociation with peer groups may lead to aggressive behavior on part of the students with jailed parents. The aggression can also result from a combination of factors which can include conditions in their foster home, separation from their parents, or their social company. 1. Effect: Aggressive behavior can further alienate them from their peers, while creating disciplinary problems for them.
Persistent aggression can eventually lead to negative social outlook, and can act as an initiator for these students to adopt this behavior as necessary part of their approach. 2. Remedy: formation of peer groups within class which promotes harmony and interaction. v. Drug and Alcohol Abuse: This is the most severe problem often based by students with jailed parents (Jacob, Masson and Harvill, 1993). Foster parents or relatives do not exhibit the same sense of responsibility and care as natural parents, paving open the door of drug and alcohol abuse for these children
1. Effect: Drug and alcohol abuse can lead to addiction, which in turn can completely destroy their social and biological functions. The results of drug and alcohol abuse are extremely pernicious-students may adopt unlawful living style, severely loose health, permanently abandon studies: in its most severe form, the abuse may lead to destruction of mental faculties, disruption of normal functioning of vital organs and may even result in death. 2. Remedy: To prevent this situation, periodic counseling and guidance is necessary for these students.
Schools may appoint mentor teacher, who can lead the students to a positive and active approach in life, by encouraging them to adopt various constructive hobbies, usefully invest their time in studies, sports and social activities, and act as support for similar pupils (Jacob, Masson and Harvill, 1993).. 3. Intervention and guidance: Students with their parents in jail face the fundamental problem of guidance-in the absence of their parents, they may perceive themselves completely alone, left out and ignored.
It is vital to alleviate these negative thoughts and help them to focus on positive aspect-such as their interest areas, areas of their strength, and the value of meaningful and positive interaction with other studies (Jacob, Masson and Harvill, 1993).. To channelize these activities, these student should be provided every assistance and opportunity to use their energy and focus in the best ways possible. My suggestions include a. Promoting sports and extracurricular activities: Sports are a big draw for positive channelization of energy, maintaining the focus and creating an assimilative atmosphere.
It also provides all students opportunity to interact, thereby lowering the barriers among them, if any. b. Encouraging development of special skills and concentrating on their hobbies and interest areas: The latent talent of these students should be explored, brought out and converted into their strength. They may discover their strength as a singer, an instrumentalist, as artists, photographer, etc. Once students identify their hobbies and strength areas, they should be actively encouraged to devout as much time outside studies as possible for it.
Excelling in these areas would help them to earn recognition, would lower or remove the stigma they are forced to inherit from their parents and pave the way for getting them socially acceptable (Jacob, Masson and Harvill, 1993). c. Creating social networking groups: Elder students who have successfully coped up with their situation, should be included into a special program where they can interact and collaborate with other children from similar background, to allay the fear and apprehensions they might be facing, and to help in normalization.
The older students can choose to act as mentors, or counselors for the youngsters, which would instill a sense of participation and responsibility in them. It would also provide a support structure for the youngsters, who can better correlate with students who have successfully survived facing the same situation. Reference Jacobs, E. Masson, R. L. and Harvill. R. L. 1993. Group Counseling strategies and skills. Thomson Group. 1993 Reed, D. F and Reed, E. L. 1997. Children of Incarcerated Parents. Social Justice, Vol. 24,